Eric Berg Receives 2017 Munir Award

by Bonnie Dickson

Eric Berg
Dr. Eric Berg is the 2017 recipient of the Zuhair A. Munir Award for Best Doctoral Dissertation.

The College of Engineering’s Awards Committee has selected Dr. Eric Berg as the winner of the 2017 Zuhair A. Munir Award for Best Doctoral Dissertation.

Berg’s award-winning dissertation, “Detectors, Algorithms, and Scanner Technology for Total-Body PET,” focuses on developing a whole new paradigm for medical imaging.

As part of his research, Berg developed a total-body positron emission tomography (PET) scanner that radically improves the quality and diagnostic capabilities of PET imaging. In addition to improving the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer patients, Berg’s research presents new applications for the use of total-body imaging to study infectious diseases like HIV and tuberculosis, and complex, multi-organ diseases including metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, and brain-gut interactions.

The research was chaired by Professor Simon Cherry in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Cherry describes Berg as a fantastic colleague and mentor to all around him.

“Eric has been an outstanding student who has done groundbreaking research that has the potential to change the way PET imaging is used both in the clinic and in research into a wide range of human diseases,” said Cherry. “He is richly deserving of this award not only for his broad and important intellectual contributions but also for his incredible productivity.”

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded UC Davis $15.5 million to build the first human total-body PET scanner, in part due to critical supporting data from Berg’s research. A prototype scanner for animal imaging developed by Berg has already been used by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and has now been deployed to the California National Primate Research Center.

Berg is currently a postdoctoral scholar in Professor Cherry’s research group where he continues to develop imaging applications for the group’s non-human primate scanner.

The Awards Committee received several outstanding nominations this year. As a result, the Committee also gave honorable mention to the following dissertation:

  • Dr. Pallavi Daggumati from Electrical and Computer Engineering for her thesis, “Nanoporous Gold Biosensors for Electrochemical Detection of Nucleic Acids,” chaired by Professor Erkin Seker

The annual Munir Award was established in 1999 to recognize the best doctoral dissertation within the College of Engineering. The award honors former Dean of the College, Zuhair A. Munir, who led the College from 2000 to 2002 and acted as its Associate Dean for Graduate Studies for 20 years.

Berg will be recognized at the 2017 Graduate Studies Awards. The May 22 ceremony will take place from 3 – 5 p.m. in the multi-purpose room of the UC Davis Student Community Center.

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